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Spain is by far the most popular choice of country for young people in Europe embarking on an Erasmus semester or year abroad. In 2016, the country topped the list of most popular Erasmus destinations, followed by the UK and Germany. Since the EU programme started in 1987, millions of students across Europe have had the chance to live, study and work abroad, experiencing other cultures and maybe learning a new language, too. But what makes Spain such an attractive Erasmus choice?
While ‘sunny Spain’ might feel like a stereotype if you happen to be studying in the rainy northwest region of Galicia, it is true that much of the country enjoys sunny and warm weather during spring and summer. Cities like Madrid are even bathed in sun throughout the winter – even if the temperatures are a bit nippy.
Spanish is one of the most useful languages to learn for university students. The world’s second-most spoken language – after Chinese – has around 400 million native speakers and is spoken in Spain and the majority of South and Central America. It is even more widely spoken than English, so if students are looking for a useful second language, Spanish usually fits the bill.
History students, or even just those who are interested in the past, find Spain endlessly fascinating for its rich history. From its Roman ruins and the centuries of Moorish rule to its Golden Age and Spanish Civil War, wherever you end up studying, there are sure to be some interesting historical tales to learn about.
The country that produced the likes of Velázquez, Goya, Picasso and Dalí has, unsurprisingly, no shortage of excellent museums. Spain is home to several museums that regularly make the ‘world’s best museums’ lists, such as the Prado in Madrid. Other more modern additions, such as the Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim in Bilbao, have quickly made a name for themselves as architectural and artistic masterpieces.
One of the best parts of visiting Spain is sampling its excellent cuisine. The unique tapas culture – sampling small plates of different dishes allowing you to try lots of different flavours – can be addictive and once students have tried it, it might be hard to let go. From its fresh Mediterranean cuisine to its thriving international scene with South American, Chinese and African flavours, Spain is a foodie paradise.
Compared to some other Western European countries, Spain is relatively affordable, especially for students on a budget. Being the most popular country with Erasmus students, Spain is well set up for flat sharing, with a host of websites that make finding accommodation when you land as easy as possible.
Spain is a country of hugely varied landscapes, from the Mediterranean coast to the lunar landscapes of Mount Teide, the country’s highest mountain in the Canary Islands. Active students love exploring the Pyrenees, the Picos de Europa or the Sierra Nevada in Andalusia – home to one of Europe’s most southerly ski resorts. Despite being known for its sun, sea and sand, Spain is a great winter sports location, with ski resorts in all three aforementioned mountain ranges.
Erasmus is – at least partly – about studying, and Spain is home to some world-class universities. The University of Salamanca, one of the oldest in the world, is just one of the popular destinations for Erasmus students coming to Spain. Many universities offer students the opportunity to study in historic surroundings and follow in the footsteps of some of Spain’s most famous historical figures.
For students who want to experience living the big-city life, you can’t do much better than Spain. Its two biggest cities, Madrid and Barcelona, are buzzing metropolises that provide a wealth of opportunity for students in terms of culture, nightlife and sheer excitement. For students who want to experience living in a city, but would like a more laid-back vibe, Spain’s third city of Valencia is a great option. Nestled on the coast, it mixes big-city buzz with small-town charm.